Public urged to stop offering money for blood donations
• warned of potentially serious risks

Kaieteur News
February 10, 2007

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Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), Dr. Clement Mc Ewan, is appealing to members of the public to refrain from offering persons money to donate blood.

In an interview with Kaieteur News, Mc Ewan said there is evidence that persons are still indulging in this dangerous practice in an effort to solicit blood for their sick friends or relatives, especially in times of emergency.

He pointed out that since the only motivation for persons making the donation is money, they are usually dishonest in revealing the truth about their social and sexual lifestyle practices, thus putting the blood recipient at risk.

The Director noted that, even though all blood donated to the department undergoes extensive screening and testing procedures to ensure its safety, some infections cannot be detected in their initial stages.

“Even though the tests we carry out are extremely accurate, we will not be able to pick up certain infections during the window period. That's why it's extremely important that persons provide accurate information when we interview them, and persons will not be honest if their motive is money”, the Director said.

He said that the NBTS has embarked on programmes aimed at educating persons on the dangers of the practice of paying donors for blood.

He also informed that systems are in place which will enable staff to detect, during the interview process, whether a donor was paid; and once this is observed, the process is discouraged.

The persons facilitating the payment are then called in and advised of the dangers involved in such a transaction. “We let them know that even though they might be in an emergency situation and are trying to help their relative, they could end up doing quite the opposite, because this practice increases the risk of contaminated blood being transfused to the sick person.” Mc Ewan pointed out that education on what obtains in blood donating processes is critical in this regard because, in many instances, the relatives are capable of giving the blood themselves, but pay because of ignorance.

“What we find many times are that the relatives may believe that they are too thin, work too hard, or are just downright afraid to donate blood. So we offer them counselling whilst providing information to address these myths,” Mc Ewan said.

He added that if, after all resources are exhausted, the patient is still in need of blood, the NBTS tries to facilitate that supply.

Mc Ewan pointed out that donating blood in such situations puts a strain on the limited resources of the NBTS, since the blood donated will not be easily replaced.

He informed that a mere 25% of the blood in the bank is garnered from voluntary donors.